P C P Market Research Consultants

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by P C P Market Research Consultants's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from P C P Market Research Consultants is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Managing Director:
PCP’s office in
Bishopthorpe, York
Celebrating their 30th anniversary in March this year, PCP
Market Research Consultants have worked with data
analysis since their conception. Managing Director Peter
Pickersgill discusses the importance of adapting to a changing
marketplace and talks about how the team at PCP operate with
integrity. Now working in an era dominated by social media,
Peter explains how the industry has changed.
We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary in March 2020. By 1990, I had become
aware, through contacts made when serving on various industry committees in my
former career at Nestlé Rowntree, that much of the work we had carried out would
be of interest to others. We had used statistical techniques to explore the impact of
key marketplace variables such as price and advertising. For example, we believed
we had made more progress than most in tackling the fundamental question raised
by Lord Leverhulme when he stated: “I know that half my advertising is wasted but
I don’t know which half.”
In our experience, all companies have large quantities of data that are not utilised
to the full and which, with careful analysis, can remove the need for expensive
original market research. This was the basis on which I launched PCP.
Becoming a full-service market research agency
Analyses of this type remain a core element of our repertoire of services. However,
after a few years, we responded to client pressure and began to collect data
ourselves rather than relying solely on clients’ existing databases. We became
what is known as a “full-service” market research agency, meaning we are able
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1990
»Based in York
»Services: Market research
»No. of employees: Four full
time employees with part-time
PCP Market Research
Highlighting best practice
to draw on a range of approaches to
meet our clients’ needs: from face-
to-face, telephone, postal and online
surveys, to focus groups, in-depth
interviews, statistical analysis and
With this versatility, we’ve been able to
add value and insight to a wide range
of sectors from local authorities to
universities and colleges, fast moving
consumer goods to insurance. In
turn, our clients include established
international companies as well as
organisations with no prior experience
of using market research.
An enquiring mind is one of the key
qualities we look for when appointing
new staff. Curiosity may have killed
the cat but it is an essential quality of
a good market researcher. One of the
most satisfying aspects of our work
is the insight we obtain into markets
and consumer behaviour of which we
had little prior knowledge. Market
researchers are able to approach each
project with no knowledge and no
preconceptions of the likely outcome,
ensuring that they can be led solely by
the views expressed by respondents.
In this instance, lack of knowledge can
actually be an advantage.
Adapting to a changing
Much changes in 30 years, and the
ability to remain abreast of these
changes has been critical to our
continued relevance and ability to
respond to clients’ needs. In doing
so, we have needed to demonstrate
both versatility and integrity. In our
first year of operation, the company
employed just myself and a business
partner working from our respective
homes. Since then we have moved
to larger premises three times
while deliberately maintaining the
characteristics of a small agency. We
believe it is essential to build and
maintain close working relationships
with our clients. All projects are
personally directed by me, as
managing director, ably supported by
three graduate research executives,
an in-house telephone interviewing
team, nine regional interviewer
supervisors and a national team of
face-to-face interviewers and mystery
shoppers. We have been fortunate
in employing a highly loyal team:
our three executives have been with
the company for 15, 11 and four
The technological and digital
environment has changed almost
beyond recognition in three decades.
When we started, we had just two
computers and needed to input all our
survey data by hand. Our company
now possesses 25 computers of one
type or another.
Another challenge we have had to
overcome is the changing public
attitude to market research. The
decline of the landline phone has
been accompanied by a reluctance
to engage. Ironically, in an age when
the internet and social media intrude
in all aspects of life, answering the
phone to a stranger is somehow much
less acceptable. While telephone
research was once our staple, the
Discussion of latest
Curiosity may
have killed the
cat but it is an
quality of a
good market
tele-preference service, the rise of
mobile phones, the decline of the
landline and the telephone directory,
and “gatekeepers” increasingly likely
to guard the phone for their boss
have necessitated a change. These
days, more and more of our work is
conducted as an online survey or as
focus groups which allow exploration
of the reasons why respondents feel
and behave in a certain way.
Championing integrity
Another challenge has faced the
market research industry since its very
early days. Genuine market research,
which respects the confidentiality
under which all responses are given,
must be differentiated from aggressive
calls in which an unscrupulous sales
executive may claim to be conducting
market research while actually seeking
to make a sale. This is known in the
trade as “sugging” or selling under
Legislative changes through GDPR
placed additional requirements on
small companies, although this may
have impacted us less than others. We
have long been a company partner
of the Market Research Society and
follow their code of conduct strictly in
all our work.
Integrity is central to our approach,
and our advice often helps clients
recognise boundaries in what is
possible or advisable. We also have
to refrain from the temptation to join
those who seek to offer a competitive
price by cutting corners, which may
impact negatively on the validity of
We are optimistic about the future.
Any business at any time is faced with
a bewildering array of decisions to
take. Marketers in particular are likely
to be considering at any given moment
a possible launch of a new product
and whether to make changes to the
pack design, product formulation, level
and content of advertising or type of
promotional support for established
brands. The outcome of all these
decisions is fraught with uncertainty.
Market research exists to take as
much uncertainty as possible out of
the decision-making process and will
therefore in our view always play an
important role. It is up to our company
to maximise the opportunities this
continuing need provides.
Ironically, in
an age when
the internet
and social
media intrude
in all aspects
of life,
answering the
phone to a
stranger is
much less
Interviewer at work


This article was sponsored by P C P Market Research Consultants. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development